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Pyrolysis Techniques in the Analysis of Polymers and Rubbers

Polymers and Rubbers

  1. Thomas P. Wampler

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a2028

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Wampler, T. P. 2006. Pyrolysis Techniques in the Analysis of Polymers and Rubbers. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. CDS Analytical, Inc., Oxford, PA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Pyrolysis is defined as a chemical degradation reaction induced by thermal energy only,1 and analytical pyrolysis is the study of materials based on the results of such reactions. Since the overall result of a pyrolysis reaction is the production of small molecules from larger ones, it is extensively utilized in the analysis of polymers, especially as a sample introduction tool since it permits the application of techniques such as gas chromatography (GC) to such macromolecules by breaking them into fragments which are compatible with the technique. Interpretation of the results of a pyrolytic analysis depend on an understanding of the degradation mechanisms involved, which reflect relative bond strengths within the macromolecule. Since specific polymers are chemically different from each other, the degradation products they make are different, providing characteristic information about the original macromolecule. Analytical pyrolysis, coupled with GC, mass spectrometry (MS), gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and other techniques, has been used in the study of a wide range of polymer types, including polyolefins, vinyl polymers, polyurethanes, acrylics, rubbers, polyamides and polyesters.

Analytical laboratories employ one of a variety of pyrolysis techniques (microfurnace, resistively or inductively heated filament) interfaced to a detection instrument (GC, MS, FTIR) to create an analytical system. These combined systems have strengths and weaknesses based on the limitations of the individual components and must be optimized for a particular analysis. Systems have been devised which permit the routine analysis of such difficult materials as cured and cross-linked paints and rubbers, textile fibers, filled composites, laminates, dried adhesives, copolymer systems, coatings and packaging. Practical applications are found in laboratories charged with the analysis of forensic evidence, museum artifacts, ink, paper, lubricants, automobile tires, clothing, varnish, wood products, furniture and food containers.